Cataract Surgery – Helping us See Clearly

Is your eyesight starting to get hazy?  Do you notice a glare at night when headlights flash in your eyes?  Do you think failing eyesight is a normal part of aging?

You might assume you just need new glasses, but you may have cataract symptoms.

What are cataracts?

Cataracts are the most common eye disorder in North America.  Your eye’s lens loses its clearness and becomes cloudy, interfering with your vision.

My husband had had a chemical burn to one of his eyes when he was in his twenties.  When he started having reduced vision in his “good” eye he literally was becoming blind in one eye and couldn’t see out the other.  His optometrist kept prescribing stronger glasses, but they were not helping.

“It’s like looking through dirty yellow gauze,” he said.

He was finally referred to an ophthalmologist who recommended cataract surgery to tune up his vision.

Related:  Choosing a New Family Doctor

It’s not your parents’ surgery

My parents and in-laws had cataract surgery when they were in their 70’s and 80’s.  The median age of patients now is 65 since boomers are deciding to undergo surgery earlier than previous generations.

And why not? 

They are reaping the benefits of the successful advances in cataract surgery.  It’s a lot safer and with fewer complications than in the past.  No more lengthy hospital stays, long recovery periods and substandard vision after surgery.  Why wait for the cataract to worsen and interfere with your active lifestyle?

Cataract surgery is performed in less than 10 minutes under local anesthetic.  A small incision is used to remove the cloudy lens and a clear replacement lens is implanted.  Patients wear an eyepatch overnight for a week or so, then, voila, an immediate improvement in vision.  You may no longer need glasses or contacts.

No wonder it’s become one of the most common surgeries in Canada today.

The surgery is covered by provincial health plans but if you need an upgraded replacement lens that corrects for astigmatism or farsightedness that may not be covered. 

Most jurisdictions have set a 16-week maximum waiting time for cataract surgery – the time-frame recommended by the Canadian Ophthalmological Society.

However, my husband was told he would have to wait a least a year to have the surgery done at the hospital.  Considering the severity of his problem, we decided to pay the $2,500 ourselves to have the procedure done at the doctor’s private clinic.

Now, for the first time since he was a teenager, he doesn’t need to wear glasses.  He just uses those magnifying glasses you can buy at the drug store to read fine print.

Before surgery …. Big improvement with Toric Lens
Who’s at risk?

You’re at increased risk of cataracts if you smoke, you have diabetes, or you’ve had lots of sun exposure without proper eye protection.  

Other causes include having had an eye injury that affects the lens, such as a chemical burn, and using certain medications such as steroid creams or drops, particularly around the eyes.

The bottom line

Live long enough and chances are you will develop cataracts.

Cataracts are a leading cause of vision loss.  Untreated, they can affect mobility and performing daily activities and more than doubles the likelihood of at-fault car accidents.  My husband fell off the curb twice because he couldn’t see clearly.

Have regular eye exams to identify problems such as cataracts early on.

The big payoff is normal vision.  For a lot of patients, it’s a real life-changer.

Also read:  Health and Fitness

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